The Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire union will endorse Governor Margaret Wood Hassan today. And while that’s not unusual, they’ll do it on city of Manchester property, using Station Seven on Sommerville Street as their backdrop. Fire Chief James Burkush told Girard at Large that’s not unusual either, saying that the union has endorsed several candidates over the years using a fire station as backdrop. He said the practice predates him, but that he saw no reason to prevent the use of the facilities. He did say that no on duty personnel would be allowed to participate, per a directive from him, which is also standard practice. And, while he expects the union to abide by that directive, and claims it has in years past, no effort will be undertaken to check in and make sure that the case. Anyway, the union’s not so much for Hassan as it is against G O P challenger Walt Havenstein, at least that’s my take on the invitation sent to their members. They cite his pledge to support of Right to Work legislation and claim his budget plan will lead to shortfalls, more cost down-shifting to cities and towns and fewer firefighters.
While we’re on the topic of unions, the date Manchester ‘s teachers will vote again on the contract into which their leadership and the city have tentative entered. The teachers will vote again on October sixth and seventh and this time it will be run by the times set forth in the union’s by laws. The recent vote in favor of the contract by the union’s membership was voided by the union’s executive board after contract opponents complained that the voting hours set forth for the last election fell about an hour short of what was required in the bylaws. Rather than have a cloud hang over the contract, the board established another vote, with M E A President Ben Dick acknowledging mistakes were inadvertently made, but also noting the elections proceeded as advertised well in advance and were no different than prior votes which rejected prior contract proposals by lopsided votes.
Meanwhile, teachers have taken to picket lines, wearing red shirts and union buttons in advance of the vote. We’re getting reports, particularly from parents at Hillside, of this union activity during school hours. One Hillside parent sent an email saying about thirty teachers walked out of school yesterday to picket on the sidewalk in front of the building with signs complaining about politics and deserving more money. We are investigating.
In follow up to a story we discussed yesterday, the Manchester School District is, indeed, looking for a building to house the district’s pre-school program, a federally mandated program for disabled children. Mayor Ted Gatsas, in response to questions we asked him yesterday about why the school district went into Non Public Session to discuss redistricting, said the discussion included talk about potential properties. While I don’t recall that part of the law being called out as they went into non-public for personnel reasons, IF there was a discussion about the terms of a possible property lease or purchase, it would have fallen within the exceptions carved out by the law. IF it was just another discussion about the need for a building to affect redistricting, that would not be sufficient grounds for going into non-public session. Manchester’s redistricting efforts have faltered on what to do with the twenty seven or so classrooms housing some three hundred developmentally disabled pre-school kids housed largely at Smyth Road, Jewett Street and Parker Varney schools.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next.